Hot Air

A Christmas Horror Story

The mood around Chez Big Mike is tense. The news came in this morning, via radio.

(I wish I could say I’d caught a “communique” on “short wave radio.” You all know how much I dig drama. But no, it was a little feature on NPR’s Morning Edition. And, sorry, I can’t link to it because NPR hasn’t posted the clip yet.)

Anyway, the jitter-inducing news is that the price of olive oil is about to skyrocket due to a lousy growing season in certain olive-producing areas of this mournful globe.

Olive Oil

Air, Water, Shelter, Love, And Olive Oil

Mournful, natch, because what’s the point of living if one can’t get his mitts on olive oil? I’d prefer gasoline to hit seven dollars a gallon to a shortage of olive oil. Right now, I pay anywhere from $17 to $20 for a gallon of the good stuff, depending on little vagaries like, um…, well, I don’t know. It’s hard enough to figure out why petroleum and gas prices fluctuate as they do; now I gotta decrypt the inner workings of the O.O. racket? Puh-leeaze.

As soon as I heard the news, my imagination went wild: will my gallon of olive oil now cost $30? How about forty? Is fifty too crazy to even ponder?

In any case, I know what I’m doing first thing tomorrow morning. I’munna march right down to my nearby Kroger and cop at least two gallons of the extra-virgin. That’s what one does in an emergency — lay in a supply of life’s essentials.


It’s over. We’ve finished shaking the Xmas money tree. Bucks by the bushel-ful rained down upon us at the Book Corner. Apparently, President Obama‘s failed presidency has resulted in a now-reasonably vibrant economy (even taking into account the wealth and income gaps, of course) and folks are spending money — not as drunkenly as they did in the years leading up to the dot-com bust, Bush II’s apparently wildly successful presidency (complete with his two treasury-busting wars), and the Great Recession but more liberally than they did in, say, 2009, ’10, and ’11.

At least that’s what it looks like from the vantage point of the northeast corner of Walnut and Kirkwood. Selling stuff, though, is hard work and the crew at the BC was worn to a frazzle by Wed. afternoon. In fact, any customer who dared enter the store after 1:00pm on Christmas Eve was pretty much risking death by dirty look.

Credit card- and cash-lugging patrons usually are welcomed with open arms in any retail establishment but by that hour the Book Corner corps — as well as those of pretty much every shop and store in this holy land — had had quite enough of ringing up, giving change, wrapping, smiling, answering questions, solving problems, shelving incoming inventory, and plastering the ho-ho-ho spirit on our faces even as our feet ached and our bladders bulged.


A Typical Bookstore The Day After Christmas

All I know is the last week and a half or so I’ve been collapsing on the sofa after my shifts at the store and waking up the next morning only to have to go through the same ordeal again. When I locked the Book Corner’s front door yesterday at 4:00pm, I let loose with a torrent of expletives, describing customers — and for that matter, all members of the human race — in as unflattering terms as any of the 100 greatest novelists of all time could have conjured. At that, my confreres looked at me and wondered aloud how it could be that I was still in a sunnier disposition than they were.

I got home, poured myself a medicinal dosage of Coppola Zinfandel, threw my socks at Steve the Dog, pressed play on I Was a Teenage Werewolf, and emitted a sigh forceful enough to make the pictures on the wall crooked. Next thing I knew, the light of the morning was waking the hounds up and they, in turn, were nudging me with their cold noses..

Today I plan to heal my sore soul and body. Tomorrow, we’re back at it as customers pound on our front door and demand to exchange their copies of Not That Kind of Girl for Yes Please.


Don’t Get Used To This Just Yet

[Just a reminder: The Pencil is on hiatus right now as Big Mike — me — devotes time and energy to a fabulous book project, the details of which will be forthcoming as publishers are sufficiently fawned over and contracts are signed. Stay tuned for news on that front.

Meanwhile, I’ll be putting up little tidbits on occasion, just to keep the circuitry of this communications colossus in working order. I expect to be back telling the world what it ought to do full time within weeks or a couple of months at the most. Try your best to survive without my inerrant pontifications until then, okay? Okay.]

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